HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html US Meets With Afghanistan Militia
Pubdate: Thu,  2 Aug 2001
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Author: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press Writer


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - In its first high-level meeting with 
Afghanistan's ruling militia, the Bush administration told the Taliban on 
Thursday that they must stop supporting terrorists before any serious 
progress can be made in relations with the United States.

Osama bin Laden, the alleged terrorist mastermind who has been living in 
Afghanistan under Taliban protection since 1996, was a main focus of the 
discussion in neighboring Pakistan.

After meeting with two Taliban representatives for slightly more than an 
hour, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina B. Rocca said 
Washington wants bin Laden extradited on terrorism charges, but that "Osama 
is not the be all and the end all. He is only one problem and he continues 
to be a threat."

Rocca said the Taliban "continue to harbor terrorists" and that there can 
be no "serious progress unless their support for terrorists stopped."

The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who attended the 
meeting, said the Taliban want to settle the issue of bin Laden, but "we 
support a solution that can respect religion, dignity and the traditions of 

"We gave Rocca our complete assurance that our soil will not be used 
against America and that Afghan soil will not be used for any terrorist 
activity," Zaeef told The Associated Press. He called the meeting "very 
successful. The atmosphere was very cordial."

U.N. resolutions, cosponsored by the United States and Russia, have 
sanctioned the Taliban to press Washington's demand that bin Laden be 
handed over for trial either in the United States or a third country on 
charges he masterminded the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa.

The Taliban have offered to try bin Laden in Afghanistan, to let him be 
tried by a panel of three Islamic clerics from Afghanistan and two other 
Muslim nations, or to allow his movements to be tracked by international 
Muslim monitors.

Rocca told reporters the Bush administration is in the midst of reviewing 
U.S. policy on Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, which was sanctioned 
following the 1998 detonation of an underground nuclear device.

In recognition of the Taliban's elimination of opium, the raw material used 
to make heroine, the Bush administration is giving $1.5 million to the 
United Nations Drug Control Program to finance crop substitution, Rocca said.

Until this year, Afghanistan was the world's largest opium producer. It 
produced 4,000 tons last year. But a ban on growing poppies, the plant from 
which opium is extracted, resulted in its virtual elimination in a single 
year. The result has been devastating for farmers and day laborers who 
depended on poppy production for their survival.
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